A federal appeals court ruled that special counsel Jack Smith can't access phone records of Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., regarding the 2020 presidential election.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said Smith's effort to access Perry's communications with colleagues and executive branch officials violated his immunity under the Constitution's "speech or debate" clause, Politico reported Wednesday.
The clause shields members of Congress from legal proceedings connected to their official duties.
"While elections are political events, a member's deliberation about whether to certify a presidential election or how to assess information relevant to legislation about federal election procedures are textbook legislative acts," Judge Neomi Rao wrote in the opinion issued last week.
The decision marked the the first time an appeals court has held that lawmakers' cellphones are subject to the same protections as their physical offices.
It also was the first significant legal setback for Smith in his bid to obtain evidence about involvement by allies of Donald Trump in the then-president's alleged effort to overturn the 2020 election, Politico reported.
Rao, a Trump appointee, was joined by another Trump appointee, Judge Gregory Katsas, and by Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush.
The three-judge panel overturned a lower-court ruling by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell that largely sided with the Justice Department's effort to access Perry's phone.
"We disagree with the district court's holding that informal factfinding is never a legislative act. But we also reject Representative Perry's proposition that informal factfinding is always a legislative act," Rao wrote, Politico reported.
The judicial panel returned the matter to Howell to apply the new rules to her original decision.
Charlie McCarthy, a writer/editor at Newsmax, has nearly 40 years of experience covering news, sports, and politics.
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